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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Burning of Thomas Ball

Dr. Helen writes about the lack of media response to Thomas Ball's suicide:
There are some pundits and commenters who have said that Ball does not deserve any compassion or that he should hardly be the poster boy for men’s rights because he may or may not have been jerked around by the family court. He did slap his then four-year-old daughter, giving her a cut on the lip, when she refused to obey him after three verbal warnings, etc. This isn’t great, but it doesn’t warrant jail time, arrest, or having one’s children taken away. If it does, there are so many women out there who qualify for the same treatment, I shudder to think about it.

But whether you think Ball is a good man, a bad man, or a crazy man doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Ball’s death — and the reaction to it — should serve as a wake-up call to how men and boys are being treated in a society that devalues their very existence. Males commit suicide at much higher rates than women and no one cares; they are treated unfairly by courts and no one bats an eye. They are abused by the women in their life and people say “tough shit.” So they ratchet up the game a little and start setting themselves on fire to get some attention to their cause and, once again, the media and society react with: “So what?”

Can we really stand by and do nothing about the treatment of men and boys in our society much longer? When I look at the picture of Mr. Ball in flames on the steps of that courthouse, I think the only answer is a resounding: “Hell, no!”
As I previously wrote, I think Ball's chosen form of suicide was a relatively futile one and I suspect the media would have paid considerably more attention if he had instead set one or more of the many cogs in the family court system on fire. Like every other bureaucratic industry, the abuses of the family court system are not going to be ended by those who presently perpetrate them; there are too many parties with a vested interest in the continuation of the system. Since not only the system, but the law itself has been corrupted, the only possible solutions have to be external. The ideal outcome is the most likely one, which is that the family court system will collapse naturally with the rest of the bureaucratic system when extend-and-pretend finally runs out of new government debt to keep it going.

However, it doesn't take an expert on the Tamil Tigers or the Sendero Luminoso to note that if a portion of the estimated 5,000 annual divorce-related male suicides ever become murder-suicides, this would likely trigger a sudden and urgent impetus towards revision of the mechanics of the current system.

Ball's self-immolation illustrates the intrinsic problem with socially engineered injustice. While injustice is always wrong, it can at least be socially stable when directed against minorities or the unproductive. Targeted injustice against the productive majority whose labor is required for social survival is downright madness. Even if we set aside the interests of the unfortunate Mr. Ball, who benefits from his incindiary death? His ex-wife will receive no alimony. His children will receive no child support and will likely grow up with more than their fair share of social pathologies common among the fatherless. The state will receive no more taxes and the economy will no longer benefit from either his labor or his consumption.

And finally, as others have pointed out, if slapping a child somehow justifies burning at the stake, logic dictates that 21st century America will have to burn more women to death than the witch hunters of the 16th and 17th century ever did.

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